Flashback to India – Walking to Triund

I am currently planning a hike in the Budawangs national park, west of Ulladulla in NSW and whilst doing so, I started to reminisce about previous walks and adventures. Flashback to 2009 where I travelled with my brother through the northern region of India covering Himachal Pradesh and Leh. It’s a spectacular place with the Himalayan mountain region always in sight and beautiful friendly people with a strong Buddhist influence.
Our 2-day / 1-night walk to Triund was exceptional. A few highlight shots below:
On top of the world – well not quite but it felt like it here at the top of Triund.
Exhausted but what a view to wake up to.
Cloudy, Himalayan freshness.
Impending storm that never quite arrived.
Fellow ‘Triund-ers’ on our way back down the mountain.
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Surfing at Stanwell Park Beach

On Saturday 10th May, we left behind the crowded city beaches and headed south to Stanwell Park Beach. With plenty of good swell running into south-facing beaches and westerly winds, there was a good chance Stanwell would be working.
As we drove along the windy downhill towards Stanwell, we caught glimpses of clean lines through the trees and shrubbery. That unmistakable white salty spray trailing off the waves as they surge towards the beach. And then, we arrive, park and admire the perfection at Stanwell on this beautiful morning. Abundant swell, a breezy offshore, lefts, rights and even barrels to be savoured. And, crowds – none. Snapped these photos in just a short time before the ocean’s allure could be resisted no longer. And now, post surf… a sense of rejuvenation and rapture that only comes from the mix of nature, sea and surf… it’s good to be back on the board.
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Mountain Biking at Manly Dam

The best local mountain biking trail (loop) has got to be Manly Dam. It offers a bit of everything – gravelly fire trail, single track, jumps, technical elements, a cracker downhill and a short, steep, heart-pounding uphill.
The Crew
Course Map
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Cycling Ku-Ring-Gai Chase, Whale and Palm Beach

Best of the north: cycling through Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and making our way to some of the best northern beaches, Whale and Palm. Sensational riding – lots of undulating sections, quiet roads and some big climbs. Total of 94.63km covered and 2,312m in vertical ascent.
Route direction: headed out from Terrey Hills to Akuna Bay, West Hd, McCarrs Ck, Church Pt, Whale Beach, Palm Beach and then back to Church Pt, up McCarrs Ck Rd and return to Terrey Hills.
Crew: Tom, James, Henry, Ryan, Hans and Daniel.
View of Barrenjoey Head from West Head
Course Map
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The Dingoes are Howling

Introduction
The world has spun, nights and days have come and gone, the clock hands turned, the passage of time is no longer, the wait is over; today we trek to Mount Dingo. This mountainous canine lies in wait, camouflaged and crouching behind her three defences – Mouin, Merrimerrigal and Warrigal. To conquer the Dingo, we must go deep.The Trek
Day 1
It is 17 August 2013 circa 0500, the crew rise from their slumber and head to Katoomba. We meet at ‘base-camp’ cafe, The Savoy, consume a hearty breakfast and indulge in civilised toilet use one last time.
Drive to ‘start point’, park, group photo, commence walk.
With the wind behind our backs, we follow the meandering path along Narrow Neck Plateau. Our pace is brisk, energy levels are high, and we are unaware of our 7km mistake. At an elevation of 1100m we take in the views – the meadows of the Megalong, the Jamison’s dense greenery, sandstone escarpments and the windswept arid land beneath our feet.
Blue skies, crisp clean air, some distant clouds threatening – but luckily all talk and no action.
The fire tower emerges. It’s the marker for Bushwalker’s Hill, our intended starting point. Check Garmin – 7km deep already! No turning back now – the wind carries the dingoes’ howls, tempting us to go deeper. We can handle an extra 14km.
Step, step. Step, step. Step, step…
…steep descent.
Arrive at Tarro’s Ladder – a series of spikes and rungs along a mostly vertical descent off the Plateau. Lee unties his rope and starts lowering backpacks. Tal descends first and gives guidance from below. Bloom brings his own unique style and climbs down back-to-the-wall, exhilaration pulsing through his veins. Goldie watches from below holding yoga pose and emitting Zen-rays. Ezra positions himself on a ledge and provides a helping hand in lowering the backpacks. Fran has raised a good son according to Bloom – house captain in his youth, rag trader and responsible trekker as an adult.
Dash along the undulating Mt Debert, lose 350m in vertical and cruise into Medlow Gap for a brief lunch stop. Trail mix, sandwiches and a subway foot-long are the key suppliers of energy necessary to face the dingo. This pit stop replenishes, rejuvenates, reinvigorates, refreshes and reignites resilience and resolve. The dingo will be mounted in 10km from this point.
Continue. Advance. Pace line. Pace on. Don’t stop. Footsteps of 11 crew pound the faint track. Bos leads at a solid pace, sticks in both hands for added speed and stability. He knows time is against us. Pace: 10mins/km. Tal navigates using his internal GPS. Frankie’s alternative internal brand of GPS is in sync. Onwards and upwards. The bush is thick, the path narrow, trees and branches and grass brush against us. The group is one. We are in a rhythm. Ease up! Stop! Simmy needs to brown-mark his territory (again). Wait. Simmy returns. The walk continues. Mouin is behind us. Merrimerrigal is being rounded. Warrigal Pass offers some navigational challenges but we persist and locate the path toward the snarling dingo. We are deep now. 20km in. Water break. The crew sits, single file on the pathway, Bloom entertains – the laughing might be harder than the walking.
The track veers sharply and steepens. We start the ascent. The sun is 1 hour shy of setting, so the light is perfect, rich yellow and streaming onto the path and warming our backs. The ascent is challenging after 20km with packs of 17kgs and it reveals the mountain goats amongst us – Sebi sets an impossible pace and Goldie is not far behind. Salty-burn-your-eyes sweat, screaming quads, calves and hammies will not stop anyone. Sublime suffering. Solace in pain. We push on, climb and scramble over sandstone rocks and boulders and pass through rocky tunnels. Step up, step up, step up… turn around and look out to Jenolan and Kanangra where the setting sun casts long shadows on the valley below and illuminates the sandstone cliffs in a warm hue. The view is spectacular, well-deserved.
We come face-to-face with the dingo. She is tame. Her howls were mistaken for taunts. She is embracing and offers a place to stay for the night, a safe-harbour protecting us from 60km/h winds.
Pitch tents. Inflate mattresses. Lee conjures up a fire in a jiffy. As the sun drops below the horizon it takes with it the intensity of the day. Calm ensues. We cook – boil and brew, roast and toast, smoke and sandwich – basic lightweight food that tonight triggers tastebud delight. The tented-trio pulls out sausages, salami and marshmallows!
The fire is our focal point this evening. We stretch out weary bodies by the hearth and sip scotch. Red hot embers and flickering flames fight off four degrees of cold for us. Frankie and bonfire feed one another, their hunger insatiable.
Looking up, high, stars are countless, the moon a gibbous. Music plays. It’s chilled and then Disclosure arrives – to the dismay of some, the pleasure of others – pervading the night air. Daft Punk saves the day. Good memories now tied to their new album.
Sleep comes easily after covering 22.05km, gaining 740m in vertical and descending 853m all in a moving time of 4:45 hours or 12:56mins/km with weighty packs.
Wake. Sleep. Wake again. Windstorm. Gale gusting and growling. It roars and rips through the valley and over mountains. Brace position!? Surely trees are being uprooted?
Day 2
A new day has begun. The adventure continues. The crew savours the remnants of the fire, whilst Richie struggles to shed the shackles of sleep and remains housed in tent. Silver and Simmy share a nourishing porridge by the fire.
Bos, Simmy and Sebi explore the remainder of the campsite and take in the panoramic views from Bushwalkers Memorial, whilst signing the logbook and singing the Australian anthem as a sign of respect to fallen soldiers in World War II.
Farewell dingo. We traverse the mountain range – Dingo, Warrigal, Merrimerrigal and descend just before Mouin. The higher altitude brings with it fresh scenery, distinct from yesterday. We follow a line hugging the sedimentary mountain walls, cross boulders carpeted in moss and step over fallen trees. It is wild and untainted.
Navigate down a narrow cleft, reach Blackhorse Ridge. Look right and see the fire tower marking Bushwalker’s Hill. It is a distant speck and seems far even as the crow flies. Descend 417m at an average gradient of 51.2 degrees into the valley below. Watch the landscape change – greener, grassier and lusher. The romantics – Goldie and Silver – both pick wattles and other plants to take home as keepsakes or gifts.
Emerge Carlon creek – crystal clear. It beckons. Richie cannot resist, he plunges his head in, quenches his thirst. Goldie and Tal do likewise. At a cool eight degrees no one dares fully submerge. Eat lunch and rest the legs.
Resume. Through waist-high stinging nettles and wombat dung we go. Climb and climb. The path becomes obscure, our location uncertain. A wrong turn costs us 40 minutes and our intended route home remains elusive. What to do? Soldier on, proceed along the fire trail until we locate the turn off. But it is not to be. Dunphy’s Pass remains hidden. The only way out is back from whence we came – a return to Medlow Gap and along Narrow Neck, adding 15km to an already long day. We arrive at Medlow Gap and twilight stares us down. The group votes, vacillates – at six-to-five the majority wants to proceed, but then Bloom wisely crosses the floor and we set up camp for a second time. Lee clicks his fingers and fire appears.
Day 2 concludes after 21.55km at an average moving pace of 13:53mins/km, an elevation gain of 794m and loss of 926m. Bloom, Bos, Frankie and Richie add 4.0km for the water-collecting night walk.
Day 3
Back the way we came, up Mount Debert, up Tarro’s Ladder and then the very long slog over Narrow Neck. Count every single burning step. Legs beg for mercy, plead for pause. Hope for the end beyond every bend, no rest, this is a test, the end is in sight, one last fight, conquer the climb, victory is sublime.
Day 3 adds 13.29km and 826m in vertical ascent for a total of 56.89km and 2360m in elevation gain.

—/—
The Crew





 
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Mount Solitary Traverse

Thank you all for an action-packed weekend of hiking where we covered great distances and vertical ascents.
Crew: Daniel, Lee, Tal, Frankie, Richie, Simmy, Jason, Schulman, Ryan, Ezra, Linton, Josh.
Golden Stairs - Group Shot at Start
Mt Solitary Traverse
Morning Day 2 - Richie in light Morning Day 2 - Some of crew eating breakfast Camp Cliff - Labrynth that is Jamison Valley Camp Fire - More fire many campers 1 Ruined Castle - Climb to Ruined Castle (Tal and Linton) Ruined Castle - Group Shot at Top Ruined Castle - Mt Solitary View Silhouettes - Frankie and Lee approaching
A second adventure to Mt Solitary with more detailed report is available here.
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Stanwell Park Cycle Journey

Summary
Forty days ago our group committed to conquering Stanwell — a cycling trek of epic proportions. At the time of planning, it was all just stats and figures — kilometres, gradients, elevation profiles and forecast average speeds — but on the day we quickly understood their true meaning as we converted numbers and ambition into pedal strokes, salty burn-your-eyes sweat, screaming quads, calves and hammies, and jack-hammer heart rates. To do this, our 10-man crew packed copious supplies of carbs, electrolytes, bars and gels but it was the intangible reserves of grit, gumption and spirit mixed with solid teamwork that saw us accomplish our objective. Stanwell. Conquered.  
Mile by Mile
Just before first light, at 0539, we set off from our regular launch pad (top of Birri). The air-temp still crisp and none of us yet fully comprehending the extent of the journey ahead of us. Jason and Linton lead us out along our regular Sutho-bound route at a strong pace (avg 37.2km/h) and high cadence; Jason’s Zipp 404’s sounding like a jet-engine and Linton powering along yet somehow still able to talk. At Brighton, Ross and Tom (both on their maiden voyage with this group) take the reins and stay in front for a sizeable section at solid speed.  
Today Sutho is a mere stone’s throw away and so we pass it by without a second glance. Next, we make a dash for Waterfall and press on along the Princes Hwy with the Royal and Heathcote national parks to our left and right. The air is now a little fresher as the cityscape is left in our wake. Helensburgh summons and we take the exit to the Old Princes Hwy where we single-up for a mostly downhill section from 280m above sea level. We are well-and-truly in NP land now with abundant greenery, cleanse-your-lungs-air-quality and no turning back. Charging along at unstoppable speed, smiles all round and endorphins flowing, no one notices that we’ve taken a wrong turn except Jason and Adam whose voices are silenced by the sound of wind in our ears at 65km/h. The detour takes us into god knows where at the base of a valley and only one way out (two if you count the cyclocross dirt road option) — that is, back up and up and up from whence we came. A tremendous climb of 158m in vertical and to Stanwell we go. But first, a quick pit stop photo opp at Bald Hill where we take in the scenic views of that quaint little coastal town we came to conquer.
We refuel at Stanwell’s cafe, talk bike and farewell James whose made himself comfortable with the Saturday paper. Onwards and upwards — a mammoth climb of 180m in vertical is immediately forced upon us. Fight off gravity, grind the pedals and chomp on salt tabs and carb-gels. Surmount the peak. And descend to the valley floor for nine sensational kilometres in perfect riding formation at high-speed (avg 40.0km/h). As planned, the Brits turn back for their date at the Scarborough.
And so the seven of us fight on: Simmy, Jason, Erez, Linton, Brent, Adam and Bos. Erez is probably fighting harder than most as he feels the lingering burn from Thursday’s Four Gorges but he battles on. We tackle arduous ascents with unknown ends, encounter false peaks time and time again and finally reach a ridge in the Royal national park where it is relatively flat, the sun is scorching and our speed sits above 40km/h as Adam morphs into a steam engine locomotive. Repeat. Repeat again. And then Sutho emerges. 
Quick coffee stop and we’re off, home and food on everyone’s minds. Jason resumes his position on the front where he’s spent much of the day. Roll. Simmy and Brent move to the front with Botany Bay to our right when a car pulls into our lane and nearly wipes out half the group. Quick reflexes, swerve, veer and the danger zone is avoided especially for Brent. Sigh of relief. Simmy goes mental, gets in front of the car and lets it rip. Resume the ride. Nothing can stop us now, we’re homebound with just 10km to go. Simmy and Brent hammer it home. Time accelerates and strangely muscle aches become tolerable numbness. And then it’s over. Done… 
…in a ride time of 4hrs 59m we journeyed 142km at an average pace of 28.7km/h and reached top speeds of 65km/h. We climbed 1750m in vertical and burnt at least 3,000 calories.
Thank you for a memorable day. Until next time…
Group Photo
Course Map
 
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Blue Mountains Canyoning

Canyoning in the Blue Mountains organised by the 6 O’Clock Club and run by Blue Mountains Adventure Company. Single day, top quality adventure.

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McCarrs Creek — Go North!

The eastern suburbs to McCarrs Creek return journey covers 87.5km of sensational cycling. One of the highlights is the section of Pittwater Rd passing through Bayview, McCarrs Creek and then Church Point. It offers a mix of undulating terrain, tree-lined roads and views of the bay with hundreds of moored yachts. Then starts the McCarrs Creek Rd climb all the way to Terrey Hills; keep a look out for the spray-painted markings on the road indicating the distance to the summit. Also, now that you’ve sampled sections of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, you may wish to delve deeper and take some side routes to Akuna Bay and/or West Head.
Course Map and Elevation/Gradient Profile
 
Key Features of the Route
  • Mostly flat with some one-off big climbs and some nice undulating sections.
  • The two main bridge crossings are always fun for different reasons — The Harbour Bridge for views and the speedy descent to The Spit.
  • Total elevation gain of 1,018m.
  • Time to complete — our group of three finished the route at 27.4km/h in a ride time of 3hr 12mins.
  • Terrey Hills shops are a great place to stop and resupply or grab a quick coffee.
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The Four Gorges — Ups and Downs

This classic 77km route starts and ends in St Ives, meandering through tree-lined roads in pristine national parks. If the four major climbs start to turn your legs to jelly, there’s an unavoidable, albeit brief, rest point when you cut across the bay on the Berowra Waters Ferry from BW Rd to Bay Rd.
The four major climbs of 4-5km each will test your legs, although the difficulty of the test is mostly up to you given that the gradient is not too steep. You can sit in an easy gear and cruise slowly up the hills, or you can gear up, increase cadence and get a lasting lactic acid burn. The best climbs zigzag up the mountains with tight hairpin corners.
What goes up must come down, so all that climbing is rewarded with some daring descents that seem to go on forever. You can reach high speeds here but be sure to watch out for the sharp corners.
Course Map and Elevation/Gradient Profile
 
Key Features of the Route
  • Total vertical ascent 1,864m.
  • This ride is all about national park scenery, big climbs and fast descents.
  • Time to complete — our group of two completed the route at 25.6km/h in a ride time of 3hr 0mins.
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Southern Highlands — Exploring the Backcountry

Introduction
This sensational 123km picturesque route traverses idyllic Australian countryside with quiet roads cutting through paddocks or surrounded by towering trees. There is no shortage of scenery and serenity on this on-road cycling route through the Southern Highlands region. If you want to experience and conquer the best of the Southern Highlands on two wheels then this route is for you.
Course Map and Elevation/Gradient Profile
Key Features of the Route
  • Mostly undulating with some long flat sections and just two traffic lights over 123km.
  • Some roaring descents — we reached a max speed of 85.7km/h on one of the downhills.
  • Some long climbs but none with very steep gradient (see gradient profile above).
  • Road quality is good — paved but not perfectly smooth as is common to country roads in NSW. The roads are well suited to road bikes.
  • Most of the route covers quiet, extremely low-traffic roads. There are two highway sections — the Illawarra Hwy through both Moss Vale (limited shoulder) and Robertson (considerable shoulder).
  • Total elevation gain of 1,694m. If you skip Old South Rd you will cut out some of the vertical ascent.
  • Time to complete — our group of eight finished the route at 25.6km/h in a ride time of 4hr 46mins.
  • Stop off points include: Fitzroy Falls, the half-way mark – Burrawang (good cafe called Burrawang General Store, est. 1867) and the town of Robertson.
  • Do not miss Tourist Rd.
  • Google map with directions available here.
  • Alternative route — you can start and finish in Bowral and may wish to consider climbing Mt Gibraltar (168m vertical over 3.4km), which has an awesome view of Bowral from the summit. Highly recommended, especially if your legs still require a workout.
Photos
Tourist Rd all to ourselves.
Illawarra Highway — limited shoulder space.
Old South Rd — at times quite hilly.
Leave early and you can expect to come across scenes like this one.
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Thredbo — Mini Mountains (Proposed Trip)

Introduction
Thredbo area campsite will be our base for two days of long range cycling through magnificent countryside. Day 1 is all about daring descents and courageous climbs. Our second day factors in the sublime suffering of the first and therefore offers a gentler profile with spectacular scenery.
In two days we will pedal nearly 300km and climb 5,478m in vertical ascent – 2.5 times higher than mainland Australia’s tallest mountain.
If we keep our eyes peeled we may also see rare mountain pygmy possums and the black-and-yellow corroboree frog in high-country areas. At lower reaches we’re likely to come across wombats, wallabies, grey kangaroos and emus.
Day 1: Ups and Downs (Thredbo to Khancoban Return – 149km)
The Kosciuszko Alpine Way is one of Australia’s greatest year-round scenic roads, a spirited evocation of the early explorers who forged a path across Australia’s high country.
After a short uphill exit from Thredbo we are quickly and undeservedly rewarded with the mother of all downhills covering about 15km and more than 1,000m of vertical. We then preserve our strength all the way to Khancoban keeping in mind the twisted gravitational rule that applies today – all that goes down must come up.
There is nothing directionally difficult about today’s route. We follow one road from beginning to end. There are no services along the way except for a café at Murray 1 Power Station and Khancoban town. So, we need to bring plenty of food and water.
The return journey from Khancoban is where the achievements begin as we have much climbing to do.
Some of today’s highlights include: KNP, Murray 1, Geehi, The Murray River (border between VIC and NSW), Tom Groggin cattle station and of course Dead Horse Gap at 1,580m above sea level. And last but not least the short downhill back to Thredbo village where we celebrate Day 1’s efforts by clinking glasses.
Day 2: Charlotte Adams (Thredbo to Charlotte Pass Return – 137km)
Our journey through rugged alpine landscapes continues in this valleys and peaks route. Expect roads lined with dense forest and revitalising fresh air to feed the lungs. Today’s route takes us through some of the highest points in Australia’s Great Dividing Range.
The day commences with a breathtaking +30km downhill from Thredbo to Jindabyne followed by a sizeable climb along Kosciuszko Rd to Charlotte Pass, Australia’s highest permanent settlement and our halfway mark for the day. Here we take a breather over lunch and ready ourselves for the return leg.
In the final +30km we face an uphill battle to the finish line. In those final kms it may help to remember that we’ve had more than 65km of downhill delights today. And, if that’s not enough, Thredbo pub awaits!
“We’ve been lucky. Not like our parents living through the Vietnam War, or our grandparents fighting in World War II and their parents in World War I and both coping with the Great Depression. There are some aspects of hardship and war that played a role in developing and shaping the character of men in prior generations. As young men we crave adventure and to experience danger and the excitement of truly living on the edge. In our current cotton-wool lives this isn’t available in domesticated, middle-class living and as a result many of us search for these experiences through avenues like drugs, alcohol and driving like an idiot. Young men are programmed to push their boundaries. Being out here on a trip like this had given Jonesy and me that excitement and danger and more importantly forced us to grow up.” – James Castrission, Extreme South.

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